Recently I overheard a conversation between two of my friends. One is a mama whose daughters are healthy, well adjusted adults. The other is a mama who is in the midst of toddlerhood. The conversation went something like this,
Older Mama: You are doing such a good job with your daughter. She is a delightful, caring little girl!
Younger Mama: (A little embarassed) Oh well, it’s not anything we are doing, it’s all God.
Now, I can totally relate to this younger mama’s response. In fact I’ve probably said something very similar to this before but the fact is, what she said is simply not true. It’s nice to give God credit for creating a child who is naturally sensitive and caring, but she didn’t get that way on his own. I KNOW that her parents work hard to train her and encourage her to care for others. I’ve seen this mama relate to her daughter and she takes great care in the words she selects in communicating with her. Both parents work to communicate immense love for and to their child. In short, they have worked hard and done a great job with their little girl. So what’s wrong with accepting a little pat on the back when another mother recognizes all your hard work?
As a parent of young children, I’ve found that my job is never done and often times very difficult and frustrating. When my mom, the one I always call when I feel like I’m about to pull out my hair, tells me that I’m doing a good job and to keep it up I feel so refreshed and encouraged. She is telling me what I know, but need to hear in that moment.
I’ve been told that in Chinese culture when receiving a complement it is appropriate, polite even, to argue with the complementer. For example if a man tells another man, “Your wife is very beautiful” or “Your son is so smart” the receiver of the complement should say something like, “Oh no, she is quite ugly. Look at how fat she is.” or “He’s really very average.” I don’t think our American culture is quite to this point, but I do think it’s very common to poo-poo or negate praise when we receive it. Maybe it’s false humility, maybe it’s embarrassment, maybe it’s an attempt at true humility. Whatever the reason I think it’s silly and maybe even harmful for us to deny well earned praise. We need to be reminded that our hard work is noticed and will pay off.
So I encourage you, the next time you receive a complement, whether it be about your cute hairstyle, well behaved child, or a job well done, don’t downplay it. Simply smile, say “thank you” and enjoy that feeling of satisfaction. You deserve it.